SEO as an afterthought

Working for one of the largest newspaper companies in the United States is sometimes surprising.

When McClatchy bought Knight-Ridder I was in the trenches of moving those KR sites off their existing platform to ours. We thought through some things, but some we just completely ignored. SEO was one of them.

About a year ago we started to go back and try to remedy that oversight, and it’s been ugly.

Some sites had 60+ H1 tags on a page, many pages had hundreds of heading tags. Slowly we helped the sites clean up the terrible code we burdened them with. We used many of the great tools at SEOmoz to clear out the kruft.

When we started to actually do real SEO for a couple of sites, we woke the sleeping giants. Then the sleeping giants heard from their bosses that they wanted their pages to rank higher. With only cursory SEO information coming out of our offices for the previous year or so, there was a real hunger.

The SEO information that was being pushed out of the marketing department was very vague and in some cases, outdated, or in some cases, just plain wrong.

I had been with the company 2 years and was completely unaware that we even offered any SEO help. Since I worked in the CMS with and for our sites everyday, that struck me as a problem. When we hired a new marketing person to be in charge of search engine marketing, I decided we needed to get to her early.

A few of us started to push her and her boss that they couldn’t actually do their job as effectively without involving us. It sounded like we were bragging, but soon they realized that dictating to the sites, just means, the sites turn around and ask us to implement the edicts.

Soon we injected ourselves into the flow in a more proactive manner, and things started to move forward. We spoke to marketing and explained that some of their basic assumptions were wrong. Since they had little technical understanding of how the CMS functioned, they were making bad decisions. Once we got marketing up to speed, the sites started getting much better information.

We had spent a year or more stuck in the mud because of two problems, lack of communication and lack of planning.

As we move to redesign 20 of our sites, SEO has been included from the beginning. Our code is cleaner, affiliates out in the field are better armed, marketing is better informed and we are actually starting to measure results.

All steps in the right direction

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